World AIDS Day

by Kate Cusimano

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, and as we celebrate how far we have come in fighting and preventing this disease, it is important to remember how significant a problem it continues to be, particularly in Africa. According to the UN AIDS Report, more than 70% of the persons infected with HIV worldwide live in Sub-Saharan Africa as did 90% of the 210,000 children under the age of 15 who died of AIDS-related causes last year.

These statistics serve to highlight the fact that along with a lack of clean water, AIDS continues to be a serious challenge across Africa. In fact, these two issues go hand-in-hand. The risks associated with a lack of sanitation and consumption of contaminated water are exponentially more dangerous to a person whose immune system is compromised by HIV or AIDS. Access to clean water is always a matter of life and death, but if an individual with HIV/AIDS hopes to have a chance at survival, he or she must have clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

In addition to the obvious health benefits it provides, a new well results in increased female empowerment and improved access to education, two factors that are also associated with a decreased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because it is so fundamental to our survival, it is easy to lose sight of the many ways in which water and the lack of it shape our communities. So, as we mark the 25th annual World AIDS Day, let us stop to consider the many ways we can contribute to the fight against this devastating disease.

First the Good News, Then the Bad News About Niger

by Barbara Goldberg

Just two weeks ago, I reported some very good news: Niger has made the most progress worldwide on reducing child mortality since 1990, according to a recently released study. Now for the bad news. In its annual report released on November 6th, the UN Population Fund revealed that Niger had the world’s highest childhood pregnancy rate, with 51 per cent of women in their 20s reporting that they gave birth before turning 18.

Photo by Barbara Goldberg

Every year, 7.3 million children become mothers in developing countries. Some 70,000 mothers between 15 and 19 die from complications after birth each year. Having children at a young age prevents girls from entering the work force, and thus the countries they live in are deprived of their potential contribution to the economy. If girls waited until the age of 20 to have a child, the gross annual income would be boosted by more than $7.7 billion in India and $3.5 billion in Brazil, the report found.

UNFPA chief Babatunde Osotimehin stressed that poverty, along with discrimination against women, is a key cause of childhood pregnancies. “Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,’’ he said. “The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”

Wells Bring Hope aims to expand those choices for the girls of Niger. When we drill a well, girls no longer need to walk for water, so they are able to go to school, often for the first time in the history of the village. Education is the key to opening up new choices and opportunities for women and girls. When girls go to school, they tend to marry later and have children later, opting instead to engage in economic activities that pull their families out of dire poverty. That’s the connection between drilling wells, empowering women, and growing the economy of the world’s poorest country.


5th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser

On Sunday, at the home of Gil and Sukey Garcetti, Wells Bring Hope celebrated its fifth anniversary and the drilling of 200 wells since we began in 2008. Our guest of honor was Kareem Ahmed, an incredible philanthropist and humanitarian and our largest donor.

Thanks to our wonderful supporters and tireless volunteers, the event was a huge success! Our goal was to raise money for 40 wells but thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we reached 63 wells, over $350,000, an amount far beyond our expectations! Special thanks to Debrah Lemattre of Stretch Media for capturing the festive atmosphere in all of these photographs!

Craig’s Crew provided us with lots of delicious food and kept the wine and Arnold Palmers flowing.

Once the silent auction ended, everyone made their way to the backyard.

After a few words from our president and founder, Barbara Goldberg, Gil introduced Wells Bring Hope’s youngest supporter, Sedona Goldstein. Mayor Garcetti then came forward to talk about the many accomplishments of our honoree, Kareem Ahmed. Watch this segment shot earlier in the week by KNBC that aired on the 11 o’clock news after the event to see the unique connection that Sedona and Kareem share!

Following Barbara’s and Gil’s remarks, Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage to auction off some amazing trips, some great art, and a chef’s dinner!


Volunteer and Supporter Annual BBQ

by Kate Cusimano

On Sunday, July 14th, Wells Bring Hope founder and president Barbara Goldberg once again opened her home to the many volunteers and supporters that make this organization possible. Special thanks to Debrah Lemattre of Stretch Media for taking all of these amazing photos!

Volunteers new and old filled Barbara’s beautiful backyard – old connections were renewed and new friendships made.

Making this summer’s barbecue extra special was the fact that we were joined by Mamane Amadou, Director of Water Operations for World Vision Niger and Sam Jackson, Director of Development for World Vision.

After everyone had a chance to heap their plates with barbecued chicken and a variety of salads, Barbara began the program by announcing that Wells Bring Hope had just funded its 200th well!

Following Barbara’s announcement, Sam Jackson spoke about Barbara’s phenomenal dedication to saving lives with safe water and how thankful World Vision is for her committment. After Sam’s remarks, Wells Bring Hope’s Director of Microfinance took center stage to introduce her fellow Nigerien, Mamane Amadou.

As Director of Water Operations for World Vision Niger, Mamane was able to provide the other guests with a unique perspective on the impact of the wells that WBH drills.

Following our illustrious speakers, I had the privilege of recognizing Evelyn Wilson and Basmah Rana as our volunteers of the year. As an organization that relies heavily on volunteers, Wells Bring Hope could not function without Evelyn and Basmah acting as our volunteer managers.

Next, Barbara presented Kristina Rietz with a special founders award to recognize her contribution to the birth of Wells Bring Hope. Kristina has been a supporter since the inception of Wells Bring Hope and was integral to getting the organization off the ground.

Finally, we raffled off some Wells Bring Hope goodies from our online store.

Thanks to all who made this such a spectacular event!


Get to Know Niger

by Lauren Cohen

You already know that Wells Bring Hope is committed to drilling wells to bring safe water and sanitation to rural villages in Niger, West Africa. But how much do you know about the country and the people that we serve?

Did you know…
• The official language of Niger is French.

{source: riekhavoc}

• The Nigerien flag is perfectly square in shape and the colors of orange, white, and green stand for the Sahara desert, purity and innocence, and green vegetation and fruitful agriculture respectively.

• Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo are tied for last place on the U.N.’s Human Development Index.

Niger River
{source: Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot}

• The word “Niger” is derived from the Tamashek phrase “gher n-gheren,” meaning “river among rivers.”

• The currency of Niger is the CFA Franc. $1 = 500.25 CFA

• Niger is divided into seven regions and one single capital district.

• Niger is nicknamed “Frying Pan of the World,” due to its being one of the hottest countries in the world.

• In May 2004, slavery was declared illegal in Niger.

• According to a 2012 survey, there are approximately 212,480 internet users in Niger. That’s just 1.3% of the population.

• Niger’s exports include uranium ore, livestock, cowpeas, and onions.

• Niger’s imports include foodstuffs, machinery, vehicles and parts, petroleum, cereals.

• There is no official religion for the people of Niger, however 90-95% of the population is Muslim.

• Hausa people are the largest ethnic group in Niger, comprising 55.4% of the population.

• The northern mountains of Niger are called Aïr.

• The capital city of Niger is Niamey.

• The main crops of Niger are sorghum and millet.

• The lowest point in Niger is the Niger River with an elevation of 200 meters. The highest point is Mont Idoukal-n-Taghes at 2,044 meters.

• Wildlife in Niger include buffalo, elephants, West African lion, Northwest African cheetah, roan, antelope, and warthogs.

Roan Antelope
{source: Pablo Escovado}

• Niger won its independence from France in 1960 and experienced single-party and military rule until 1991 when General Ali Saibou was forced in 1993 by public pressure to allow multiparty elections, which resulted in a democratic government.

Anyone can ask for help for a certain cause, organization, or country. However, when you begin to learn more about your chosen cause, when you understand a little more about the culture and the daily realities of the areas that are benefiting from your generosity, you gain a deeper understanding of the people whose lives you are changing.

CIA World Fact Book


Well #200!

Wells Bring Hope is proud to announce a milestone to celebrate–200 wells in five years! That's 130,000 lives transformed by safe water in the poorest country in the world. Thanks to all of the volunteers, supporters, and donors whose compassion in action made this possible.

{photo by Ken Kilroy}

Deadly Problems Need Tangible Solutions

by Kristin Allen

Comedian Ricky Gervais recently got into hot water after he slammed Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry for saying that they sent prayers to Oklahoma after the catastrophic tornados. He wrote “I feel like an idiot now…..I only sent money.” His point was that there are real, tangible things that can be done to help in a crisis. So concern, prayers, good thoughts, and best wishes, are most effective when they are combined with actual action.

{source: Barbara Goldberg}

The water crisis is about as big and deadly as it gets. There are 345 million people in Africa who lack access to clean, safe water. I saw it firsthand when I had the opportunity to go to Niger, West Africa in January 2012. On that trip, I visited a village without “safe water,” which meant that the women and girls would have to walk for miles to a filthy water hole to get any form of water. They would fill a large bucket with foul, brown, disgusting water and trudge back to their village carrying the heavy load on their heads. Water so filthy that I wouldn’t even give it to my pets was their only source of water for cooking and drinking. Forget about hygiene – water is too precious and rare to be used for hand washing or showers. Because of all this, more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.

When a village gets safe water, THEN life can begin. Women can work, girls can go to school and create a future for themselves, infant mortality is drastically reduced, as are serious diseases such as trachoma and Guinea worm. I think Ricky Gervais’ point is worth thinking about: when we are concerned about something, it is important to combine action with concern, when at all possible. There is so much need in the world that you can’t possibly address it all, however, just because you can’t fix everything, doesn’t mean you can’t contribute towards something; and anything is better than nothing when it involves saving lives.



A Safe Water Well for Koutouma – We Did It!

We asked you, our supporters, to fund a well for the village of Koutouma in honor of World Water Day, and within a two weeks of receiving the final donation, drilling was underway! It took four days to complete the well to a depth of 354 feet, and the villagers even assisted with the process. The following is a report from the field by Mamane Amadou, Director of Water Operations for World Vision Niger.

After testing to see if the pump was working properly, the water was sampled and sent to the water quality laboratory. The results indicated that all major parameters met the WHO standard except that nitrites were slightly elevated. An analysis revealed that the nitrites may have come from the chemical product used for mud drilling. After hours of pumping, another sample was drawn and sent for analysis. The water sample passed, and the hand pump installation followed on June 7th after the concrete apron around the pump was constructed.

“The water that we now pump from the borehole well is very clear, it tastes good, and you don’t even have to pass it through a sieve to take out insects or dirt” said one 40 year old woman. Now we can sleep well at night and get enough rest, with the peace of mind that we have safe water for our children. Now we have enough time to take care of them because we don’t have to spend all that time getting water. And our hands will be soft,” she added.

“All that we can do is say thanks, thanks and thanks to Wells Bring Hope and World Vision” said the chief of the village.

The Meaning of Poverty

by Christine Eusebio

What comes to mind when we think of being poor?

Is it not having enough money? Not having the most expensive car? Or even not having the name brand clothes that seem to be in fashion? The definition of “underprivileged” can vary from one person to another. But in West Africa, the definition is very simple.

The ten poorest countries in the world lie within this region of one of the largest continents on Earth. Seven nations in this area are currently troubled with political and social issues, and have been devastated by harsh climate changes. Niger is one of the most severely affected of those countries.

According to Oxford University's poverty index, 92 percent of Niger's population is trapped in what is called “multi-dimensional” poverty, the highest level in 109 countries studied. Niger, along with nearby Congo, was also ranked dead last on the UN's 2013 Human Development Index.

To make matters worse, a new drought has created yet another crisis, affecting the crops and leaving little to eat for the 6 million people already suffering from food scarcity.

A river runs dry in Niger – {source: Bread for the World}

In Niger, many villagers cut back on meals during the “lean season”, which is a time when food stocks run low before harvest season, and the drought has extended this period. As a result, families go to bed hungry and malnourishment is rampant.

Many Nigerien mothers suffer unimaginable losses, watching as their young children starve to death. According to Save the Children, Niger has consistently been at or near the bottom of its rankings of the worst places in the world to be a mother. Many of these women wake up each day unable to feed their children.

{source: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection}

By 2040, 55 million people will live in Niger, considering the difficulties feeding the present population, the situation is likely to get worse.

Women: Inspiration & Enterprise – The Future of Africa

by Jessi Johnson

South Africa has historically been a nation that sets examples. Within Africa, which as a continent is experiencing new economic growth, South Africa leads the way in international and open-door economic policies. It rebelled against apartheid to become one of the most multi-cultural and multi-ethnic countries in the world. It hosts anti-homophobia symposiums. It was home to the first human-to-human heart transplant, and now South Africa is continuing along its forward-thinking path this year by honoring prominent female leaders at the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise symposium in Cape Town.

The Women: Inspiration & Enterprise symposium brought together prominent leaders from the worlds of politics, business, fashion, philanthropy, media, entertainment and the arts, in a full day of panels, workshops, and classes. The conference works with both women and men from a wide spectrum of industries in order to solidify the ideologies of gender equality. However, the symposium is focused on igniting the spark of enterprise in women who wish to expand their boundaries and pursue careers in any field. The event was comprised of inspirational talks and panels with high profile speakers and guests drawn from the worlds of politics, philanthropy, media, fashion and the arts. Panels discussed such diverse issues as the role of women in technology and the need for global empowerment in an age where death during childbirth is an intolerable risk in many developing countries—and the undeniable importance of clean water sources in at-risk nations.

{Sara Brown} {Elsie Kanza} {Arianna Huffington}

The symposium is an annual event. WIE, founded in 2010, is a global annual conference and online community designed to empower the next generation of women leaders, allowing a yearly space for females of any age to come together and discuss the significant issues facing their gender. Past keynote speakers included Sarah Brown, wife of the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, designer Donna Karan, and Huffington Post cofounder Arianna Huffington. This year, CNN anchor Robyn Cunrow and Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum made appearances and led panels. Organizations like Wells Bring Hope, which helps bring awareness to the need for clean water sources and women’s health, honor the same spirit of empowerment that the symposium does. An annual global gathering of this size showcases how women are participating in the global conversation and taking a central role in shaping the Africa of tomorrow.